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House Bill Mandates Autism Coverage For Military

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Military families would get insurance coverage for autism treatment under a bill approved by the House of Representatives Thursday.

The measure, which passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, would mandate coverage of autism treatment under TRICARE, the health care program for active duty members of the military, retirees and their families.

Currently, autism coverage is limited for those insured by TRICARE, and only 5 percent of military children with autism receive services they are eligible for. The bill passed by the House this week requires coverage of autism treatment, including behavior therapy, for the estimated 13,000 military children who have the disorder.

“It is unacceptable that 1 in 84 military families are reported to have a child with autism, but receive less than 16 of the 25 minimum recommended hours of therapy,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., who sponsored the measure. “We cannot allow our children with autism to be shortchanged. With access to the right, medically-necessary, evidence-based therapies, like applied behavioral analysis, these children can make incredible gains, reach their potential, and become contributing members of our society.”

A similar bill was introduced in the Senate in early June, but has yet to progress through that body. In order to become law, the measure must be passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the president.

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